Bonnie Raitt at the Santa Barbara Bowl

Playing to a sold-out show at the Santa Barbara Bowl, Bonnie Raitt delivered a phenomenal performance that captivated the crowd for over 90 minutes.  Lovingly introduced by Mavis Staples (referring to her as her ‘little sister’), Raitt shared her trademark gravelly vocals and beautiful loving energy behind her petite and sassy powerhouse frame.

Clearly excited to be back performing live after a long hiatus due to lockdown, Raitt held a confident but understated presence throughout the night, and she was humble and appreciative of all in attendance as she delivered what could easily be considered one of her best-ever shows. The capacity crowd included Chubby Checker and Raitt’s former drummer, Tony Braunagel (who each got a shout out from her on stage), along with other musical heavyweights.

“Made Up Mind” from her latest album (Just Like That) opened the set, with Raitt’s stunning clear vocals and guitar work setting the evening off with a mellow gentleness, building quickly with “Love Ain’t Got No Business” (from 2002’s Silver Lining). “Blame It On Me” (another new track from her 2022 album) included a fabulous organ solo from Glenn Patcha, dynamo fatback drumming from Ricky Fataar, and smooth vocals that transitioned into a gravel-accentuated growl. Jumping on the keys for “Nick Of Time,” Raitt continued with a first-ever live performance of “Back Around”—originally recorded with Habib Koite while visiting Mali—and continued on with “Just Like That” (from the newest album), a song written to commemorate the late John Prine (who wrote and first recorded one of Raitt’s best-known hits, “Angel From Montgomery”).

The energy kicked up a notch with singalong favorite, “Something to Talk About” before Raitt delivered another new song, “Livin’ For The Ones’ – another nod to Prine, as well as others we have lost over the past few years. Surprises included her cover of INXS’ “One of My Kind” and a mashup of Chaka Khan / Rufus’ “You Got The Love” with Raitt’s 1994 hit, “Love Sneakin’ Up On You,” which also drew some serious crowd participation. 

The show was rounded out with 1989’s “Have A Heart” and her classic “Angel From Montgomery, before she was summoned for an encore - which was nothing short of magical. Delivering an intimate stripped-back version of “I Can’t Make You Love Me,” the stadium stood in hushed awe, taking in every note, before joining in on “Not The Only One” and “I Believe I’m In Love With You.”

Overall, Raitt’s performance was relaxed and intimate, and her vocals and guitar work were stunning. A consummate professional, she made the delivery of her music look and sound effortless and was quick to point out the luxury of each of us being able to be out enjoying live music in a crowd, while other parts of the world were suffering in a fight for their basic survival. Gracious and appreciative, her music was surpassed only by her loving energy and the words she shared to try and encourage and lift up all in attendance.